Waverley HTML version

Chapter 22
Highland Minstrelsy
When the first salutations had passed, Fergus said to his sister, 'My dear Flora, before I
return to the barbarous ritual of our forefathers, I must tell you that Captain Waverley is a
worshipper of the Celtic muse, not the less so perhaps that he does not understand a word
of her language. I have told him you are eminent as a translator of Highland poetry, and
that Mac- Murrough admires your version of his songs upon the same principle that
Captain Waverley admires the original,--because he does not comprehend them. Will you
have the goodness to read or recite to our guest in English, the extraordinary string of
names which Mac-Murrough has tacked together in Gaelic?--My life to a moorfowl's
feather, you are provided with a version; for I know you are in all the bard's councils, and
acquainted with his songs long before he rehearses them in the hall.'
'How can you say so, Fergus? You know how little these verses can possibly interest an
English stranger, even if I could translate them as you pretend.'
'Not less than they interest me, lady fair. To-day your joint composition, for I insist you
had a share in it, has cost me the last silver cup in the castle, and I suppose will cost me
something else next time I hold COUR PLENIERE, if the muse descends on Mac-
Murrough; for you know our proverb,--When the hand of the chief ceases to bestow, the
breath of the bard is frozen in the utterance.--Well, I would it were even so: there are
three things that are useless to a modern Highlander, a sword which he must not draw,--a
bard to sing of deeds which he dare not imitate,--and a large goatskin purse without a
louis d'or to put into it.'
'Well, brother, since you betray my secrets, you cannot expect me to keep yours.--I assure
you, Captain Waverley, that Fergus is too proud to exchange his broadsword for a
marechal's baton; that he esteems Mac-Murrough a far greater poet than Homer, and
would not give up his goat skin purse for all the louis d'or which it could contain.'
'Well pronounced, Flora; blow for blow, as Conan [See Note 19.] said to the devil. Now
do you two talk of bards and poetry, if not of purses and claymores, while I return to do
the final honours to the senators of the tribe of Ivor.' So saying, he left the room.
The conversation continued between Flora, and Waverley; for two well-dressed young
women, whose character seemed to hover between that of companions and dependants,
took no share in it. They were both pretty girls, but served only as foils to the grace and
beauty of their patroness. The discourse followed the turn which the Chieftain had given
it, and Waverley was equally amused and surprised with the account which the lady gave
him of Celtic poetry.
'The recitation,' she said, 'of poems, recording the feats of heroes, the complaints of
lovers, and the wars of contending tribes, forms the chief amusement of a winter fireside